On Friday, the United States announced it was closing its consulate in the Iraqi city of Basra, citing a growing number of threats made by Iran, and Iranian-supported militia in the city as the reason. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that there are ‘growing and specific’ threats being made against Americans and US facilities inside of Iraq. He went on to say that the United States will hold Iran responsible for any attacks made against US citizens or diplomatic buildings inside of the country. He has accused Iran of being a party to mortar attacks made against the US consulate earlier in the month.
Basra has experienced weeks of violent protests, brought on by increasing public anger over contaminated water, government corruption, a weakened infrastructure, and a lack of jobs in the city. Although the Basra region produces much of Iraq’s wealth, it has been virtually ignored by successive Iraqi governments for decades. The recent protests have also been directed against Iran. The Iraqi civilians demonstrating in the streets largely view Iran’s influence in Iraq’s political affairs as a prime reason for their continued despair. Clashes between anti-government protesters and police have resulted in a multitude of deaths. On 7 September, Iraqi protesters attacked the Iranian consulate in the city, as well as a number of Iraqi government buildings
The bulk of US consulate personnel will be moved to Baghdad. A skeleton staff will remain in place though, suggesting the closure will not be permanent.